Yet Another Master of Disguise

Lacewing Larva

Coincidence can be a wonderful thing, and can sometimes pose a mystery. Whilst photographing the moth for my last post on the ‘Master of Disguise’ subject, I saw what I thought was the back-end of the moth separate and move off on its own. This can’t be so? I thought, then realised it was another creature on the trunk of my crab apple tree. But I saw no creature with the naked eye, but what appeared to be crawling debris? Huh?

Lacewing Larva

These images show that amongst the debris is a tiny, pale and hairy, long-legged creature which has piled its back high with bits of debris, possibly body parts from its victims. It is quite tiny, and you could probably fit half a dozen of them on your little fingernail. I was baffled, for I had never seen anything like this before. Then with some help via Google, I discovered what it was.

Chrysopidae, are a family of green lacewings. Lacewings are good for the garden, for they eat up all the aphids. Below is an image of an adult lacewing, the Common Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea). The mystery creature in the above image is most likely the larva of a green lacewing, which is doing the wolf  in a sheep’s clothing thing. My small crab apple tree always suffers with aphid attacks, and I have seen ants protecting them and milking them for their sweet secretions of honeydew. The lacewing aphid has covered itself in the bodies of its prey to sneak past the ants line of defence into the aphid camp where it attacks and eats them. It was actually moving up the tree with a line of ants, and appeared to be unbothered by them.

How clever, and how amazing is that?

Common Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea

Common Green Lacewing

Chrysoperla carnea

A pale green species with clear green wings which are held tent-like over the body when at rest. This species lacks the dark head markings other similar species are identified by, but has a light yellowish-green stripe running down the centre of its body. Overwintering adults can be straw-coloured with red spots on the abdomen. Length 15mm.  Similar to Chrysopa perla.

Both adults and larvae are avid aphid eaters, and can decimate numbers, so much so they are used as a biological pest control agents.They not only feed on aphids, but other small insects like mites and leafhoppers. The adults also eat pollen and honeydew.

Seen all year round. Found in all types of vegetation, along woodland rides, in hedgerows, and also gardens. They are often seen at dusk as weak fliers, and they are attracted to light at night. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken  July 2015 and June 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. The adult above was attracted to the light of my moth trap.